The smallest four toes of each foot have three bony segments connected by two joints, just as the fingers do. Hammertoes is a deformity in which one or more of the small toes develops a bend at the joint between the first and second segments so that the tip of the toe turns downward, making it looks like a hammer or claw. The second toe is affected most often.
Hammertoe is caused when muscles fail to work in a balanced manner and the toe joints bend to form the hammertoe shape. If they remain in this position, the muscles and tendons supporting them tighten and stay that way. Causes of hammertoe can include squeezing into a too-small or ill-fitting shoe or wearing high heels that jam your toes into a tight toe box. An injury such as badly stubbing your toe. Arthritis. Nerve and muscle damage from diseases such as diabetes,
Hammertoe and mallet toe feature an abnormal bend in the joints of one or more of your toes. Moving the affected toe may be difficult or painful. Corns and calluses can result from the toe rubbing against the inside of your shoes. See your doctor if you have persistent foot pain that affects your ability to walk properly.
The treatment options vary with the type and severity of each hammer toe, although identifying the deformity early in its development is important to avoid surgery. Your podiatric physician will examine and X-ray the affected area and recommend a treatment plan specific to your condition.
Non Surgical Treatment
If you have hammer toe, avoiding tight shoes and high heels may provide relief. Initial (non-surgical) treatment for hammer toe involves wearing shoes with plenty of room in the toe area. Shoes should be at least one-half inch longer than the longest toe. Stretching and strengthening exercises for the toes (such as picking up items with the toes or stretching the toes by hand) are also recommended. Sometimes orthopedists recommend special pads, cushions, or slings to help relieve the pain of hammer toe.
In advanced cases in which the toe has become stiff and permanently bent, the toe can be straightened with surgery. One type of surgery involves removing a small section of the toe bone to allow the toe to lie flat. Surgery for hammertoe usually is classified as a cosmetic procedure. Cosmetic foot surgeries sometimes result in complications such as pain or numbness, so it's better to treat the problem with a shoe that fits properly.
The term "hallux valgus" or "hallux abducto-valgus" are the most commonly used medical terms associated with a bunion anomaly, where "hallux" refers to the great toe, "valgus" refers to the abnormal angulation of the great toe commonly associated with bunion anomalies, and "abductus/-o" refers to the abnormal drifting or inward leaning of the great toe towards the second toe, which is also commonly associated with bunions. It is important to state that "hallux abducto" refers to the motion the great toe moves away from the body's midline. Deformities of the lower extremity are usually named in accordance to the body's midline, or the line bisecting the body longitudinally into two halves. In more severe cases, the hallux continuing in the abductus fashion eventually either overlaps or underlaps subsequent lesser (small) toes especially the second (adjacent toe).
Bunions are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot. It is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types that make a person prone to developing a bunion. Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won?t actually cause bunions, it sometimes makes the deformity get progressively worse. Symptoms may therefore appear sooner.
Symptoms often include pain, swelling, and abnormal position of the first toe. The technical term for bunions is ?hallux valgus? (HV). This refers to the first toe or hallux moving away or abducting from the middle of the foot and then twisting in such a way that the inside edge actually touches the ground and the outside edge turns upward. This term describes the deviation of the toe toward the outside part of the foot. If left untreated, bunions can worsen over time and cause considerable difficulty in walking, discomfort, and skin problems such as corns. In some cases, a small bursa (fluid-filled sac) near the joint becomes inflamed. This condition is known as bursitis and can cause additional redness, swelling, and pain. Less frequently, bunions occur at the base of the fifth toe. When this occurs, it is called a ?tailor?s bunion? or bunionette.
Your family doctor or chiropodist /podiatrist can identify a bunion simply by examining your foot. During the exam, your big toe will be moved up and down to determine if your range of motion is limited. You will be examined for signs of redness or swelling and be questioned about your history of pain. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen. A X-ray of your foot may help identify the cause of the bunion and rate its severity.
Non Surgical Treatment
The non-invasive treatments for bunions are many and include changes in footwear, icing the sore area, over the counter pain medications, orthotic shoe inserts, and weight management. If these conservative measures fail to arrest your pain and discomfort, your foot and ankle surgeon may recommend a bunionectomy or similar surgical procedure, depending on your condition.
Larger bunions often require the surgeon to move the entire bone over (1st metatarsal). This is accomplished by a cut or fusion at the bottom of the bone. The former technique, is called the Lapidus bunionectomy. Additionally, the repositioned bone is held in place with one or two surgical screws.